Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Something for the Fighting Man

Hmm. This wasn't what I had planned to write about next, but there's a great discussion going on at ODD74 about something for the Fighting Man that's syncing with my thinking, as it were.

Snorri mentions the idea of the FM being able to attack one HD of foe/character level. So, for example, a 7th lvl FM could attack 7 orcs, or 3 bugbears, or a single troll, etc. I used to favor this approach, but after reading Chainmail with opened eyes, decided that any creature with more than a single HD should be considered "Fantastic" and needed more attention from the embattled hero, regardless of their level.

However, I'm all for the the "one attack/character level on any foes of one HD or less", as confusingly demonstrated in the second or third issue of the Strategic Review. I also like, from the thread mentioned, the idea that whenever a FM kills an opponent, he gets a second attack on someone else, until he runs out of foes. Nice and pulpy. Plus, it has the cache of being suggested by Dave Arneson himself!

There's a lot of other good ideas there, too; however, most of them have more crunch than I care to deal with. When it gets down to it, I just believe a higher-level FM should be able to plow through a crowd of goblins with no real problem...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rules & Reflections

I went into Sunday's game with only one house-rule in mind: All characters start with maximum HP. This just makes sense to me. Life is already hard enough for a first-level character without him suffering the most likely fatal indignity of starting the game with one or two hits.

Now, once people started making characters, there was some light consternation expressed about, shall we say, the prevalent lack of differentiation between characters. And weapons. So, with the wisdom of Philotomy in mind, I offered up the possiblity of two-handed weapons and arrows rolling two dice for damage and picking the best result. After thinking about it a bit, for the next session I'll add that those using two-handed weapons will always lose initiative unless gained through surprise and that arrows, if a round is spent aiming at something other than point-blank distance, will do two dice of damage. I'm a firm believer that arrows need to be more than just a nuisance. Actually, after writing all that, I can't see why it wouldn't apply to any missle weapon...

When play began, an interesting thing happened: I started making decisions about outcomes on the fly. Now, I had promised myself that I wouldn't fudge the dice--I suffered from that affliction all through my youth, and it was now time to put childish things aside! So, I never did fudge a roll, but I started making some choices based on random dice rolling having nothing to do with anything in the rules. For instance, there were a number of times where a decision needed to be made quickly and so I just rolled a d6: low=bad, high=good. I mean, this is no earth-shattering mechanic, but the thing is, I didn't plan to do it. The die just sorta jumped into my hand and I threw it and we kept on playing. Latent gaming instincts? Desperation? Genius? You decide. I'm just happy it happened, as the French say.

I also, on at least one occasion, let Prem, whose Int happens to be 16 (maybe the highest overall score of anyone?), figure something out without making a roll. Again, not ground-breaking except... I spent four or five very active years in the indie game community and learned many, many wonderful things. One of the wonderfullest was simply this: Say yes or roll the dice. This can be paraphrased as "Only roll the dice when it really matters." Back to Prem. His score was high enough that it seemed pointless to risk him failing; the stakes just weren't important enough. I love that this clicked in my mind while we were playing because, although that maxim became second nature to me in many of the indie games I played, I've never followed it while playing Dungeons & Dragons. Ever. Until now.

See, and I'm not going to get too detailed right now 'cause this deserves its own post, I have a terrible crust built up in my mind where D&D is concerned, and that crust has only recently begun to crack.

I learned at The Forge, but ODD is my hammer.

I can't wait to see what's underneath...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pictures from Sunday

Thanks to Bill for being such an artsy cameraman!

Also, fellas, I think Dawn set a new standard for sheer COLOR of gaming attire...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And So It Began

It all began this last Sunday at The Source Comics and Games, inspired by TARGA's International Traditional Gaming Week. I sent out an email on Friday afternoon when it finally became clear that I could pull this off; I also called and bugged a few people directly. In the end, I walked into the Source with two confirmed players, Coffee and Dawn, and two "possibly/probably" players, Bill and T.J. However, St. Gygax must've been smiling down upon me---already in the store were three fine fellows I know from the Minnesota Indie Game scene: Chris, Shane and Paul. They were there to play a very cool game called In a Wicked Age; however, one of their players didn't show, so they joined us. I also put up a sign inviting anyone interested to join us, and thus we gained Autumn. Finally, just as we were getting started, Bill and T.J. did indeed show, so in the end we had 8 players. Not too shabby!

We used the 3LBB, pretty much straight up. Characters were made simply by rolling 3d6 down the line and only then deciding what class to play. No rerolls, no whining. There was some disbelief at the lack of concrete ability bonuses, but everyone soldiered on, and we ended up with the following initial list (in no particular order):

  • Paul: Torren the Cleric (lawful)
  • Chris: Prem the Magic User   (chaotic)
  • Shane: Gorlim the Fighting Man (lawful)
  • Bill: Albar the Cleric (lawful)
  • Dawn: Delara the Cleric (chaotic)
  • Autumn:Steel Leaf the Elf (neutral)
  • T.J.: Arp the Dwarf (neutral)
  • Coffee: Bahb the Fighting Man (neutral)
Steel Leaf started off as a Fighting Man, Arp was of course a Fighting Man. I kept it to the basics, but in the future I fully plan to let players play whatever race takes their fancy. Everyone started out with max HP. Also, I forgot two bits from Men & Magic: 
  1. Players can shift spend some ability scores to increase others, usually at a 2 or 3:1 ratio. I'll let anyone who so desires correct that next time.
  2. Intelligence over 10 allows for extra languages. So Prem, who has an Int of 16, can actually speak 8 languages. Goodness. We'll fix that next time, too.
We played through almost all of James Maliszewski's excellent The Ruined Monastery, found in Fight On! #1, in three hours of racous fun. Seriously, we had customers and staff from the store wandering  over just to watch us play. Some highlights (WARNING--SPOILERS AHEAD!):
  • Albar bit it in the first room, in the third round of combat, killed by a giant rat who really, really wanted to eat his eyeballs. So much for platemail. Needless to say, his fellow Adventurers made sure his equipment went to a good home. Bill made a new character (Mob the Neutral Fighting Man, who had a helmet) and joined the group before they even left the room...
  • Mob set a tunnel wolf's head on fire.
  • In the old dormitory, where there's a long, narrow crack in the tiled floor, it became obvious that something is creeping around on the level below. Something large with a horrible, deep moan that had no compunction about biting Gorlim's 10' pole in half when he poked it around down there.
  • Prem, frustrated with three less-than-forthcoming goblin prisoners, threw one on a pile of books covered with yellow fungus. Not an attractive death. Needless to say, the remaining prisoners were suddenly more helpful. Well, until Arp kicked one in the head...
  • Steel Leaf, obsessed with moss, was mildly burned by green slime while trying to collect a speicmen in the Moon Pool room. The group followed Bahb's suggestion to burn a path through the slime to the pool, in order to see if there was any treasure to be had. Indeed, a relic of St. Gaxyg the Grey was uncovered which, in Torrem's hands, proved helpful in later encounters.
  • Prem, though handy with a knife and a tossed goblin, held on to his single spell until just the right moment, sending a feisty chaotic cleric to dreamland in a room with  a mysterious door...
And thus we ended. 

Too. Much. Fun.

ex nihilo...

...or something. I only pretend to know Latin so's I look cool! Anyhow, I'll keep this introductory post short and sweet:

I decided I had to stop thinking about RPGs and start playing them again. Revolutionary, I know, but there you have it. This blog will follow the campaign begun this last weekend, inspired by International Traditional Adventure Game Week. The world will develop as we play, thus the title of the blog: For those of you not clued in on the growing lexicon of oldskool lingo, "sandbox" style play starts with a vague concept of a world and grows in detail as the players make choices about where to go and what to do. Or at least that's my interpretation.

I have no idea how often I'll be posting, but my plan is to make it often enough that it'll be worth your while to follow along.